Race Review – Hardmoors Rosedale Marathon 2018

The Hardmoors Rosedale Marathon kind of snuck up on me! When I got back from my holiday in France I realised it was only a week away. I was really looking forward to it, but at the same time kind of wishing I hadn’t spent the previous fortnight consuming my own weight in pastry and wine, although I had also managed to run up and down a few hills. I was hoping the weather would cool down a bit beforehand, but unfortunately there was no sign of the heatwave ending any time soon.

The Rosedale races start and finish at Hutton-le-Hole, a pretty village near Pickering. I arrived about an hour before kick off, got through kit check and number issue at the village hall very quickly, slathered myself with P30 sunscreen and had plenty of time for loo visits! A sign outside the building stating ‘Fun Run Registration’ made me chuckle. At the race briefing, Hardmoors head man Jon Steele announced that the marathon was 28 miles long. One of the great things about Hardmoors events is that you always get ‘value for money’, because the distances are always longer than they should be. Of course, trail events are rarely measured to the millimetre, but part of the fun at Hardmoors is finding out exactly how far you’ve actually run at the end.

We set off at 9am. The air temperature was really pleasant at this point, but I realised it was set to get a lot warmer and needed to remember to drink plenty. I hadn’t taken my Camelbak bladder, as I knew there were checkpoints every few miles where I’d be able to refill my soft flask, but I did take some High 5 Zero electrolyte tabs with me to add to my water. The first few miles of the course were really enjoyable with gently undulating hills, some of which were runnable. I idly wondered whether I’d be able to finish this one a bit quicker than the White Horse in June, which had twice as much elevation.

At around 9 miles I passed through the second checkpoint, where my friend Mandy was helping out, and missed a right hand turn. Hardmoors courses have yellow ribbons tied in strategic places to show you where to go, as well as marshals at some turning points. It’s actually quite hard to get lost at these events, which is one of the reasons l like them; but I ran too far down a hill, realised I was totally on my own, ran back up again and saw where I’d gone wrong. This probably added on about half a mile and really annoyed me! Nevertheless, I got to the halfway point in about three hours, so was cautiously optimistic about finishing in around six.

Timing is pretty old school at Hardmoors events; no chips, just marshals ticking off your number on a clipboard as you pass through the checkpoints. These were all well stocked with water, peanuts and jelly sweets; I ate a few of each at every point. In the second half they also offered Pepsi, Irn Bru, ginger beer and biscuits. Pepsi or Coke always goes down well with me! The marshals were lovely, helping to fill water bottles and checking everyone was OK in the heat. There were also a couple of unofficial supporter points, one of which featured a massive inflatable dinosaur!

The second half was much tougher than the first, and I did quite a bit of walking. Not only was it hotter, but the route became more hilly and less shady in the full sun. Many of the paths were quite hard and stony underfoot, and there was also quite a lot of single track through heather moorland that was really narrow and scratchy; not easy to run on, even going downhill. But the spectacular scenery more than made up for the difficulties, and I was really enjoying myself despite the heat and hills.

With only just over 100 people running the marathon we got quite strung out in the second half, and I found myself running pretty much on my own for much of the time, but I didn’t mind. It was quite nice and peaceful to be alone amidst the blue sky, swathes of bright purple heather and dramatic moorland views, but still have the comfort blanket of a marked course.

As I reached the last checkpoint, at 26 miles, a marshal asked me if I’d like to refill my water bottle. “But it’s only a couple more miles now, isn’t it?” I asked. “Four from here!” he replied. Four? Surely he must have got that wrong if it’s 28 miles. But no, he was right, and it turned out to be 30 miles – extra value for money! Fortunately the sky had clouded over a bit by now and it was slightly cooler. The last couple of miles were a lovely gentle downhill through some woods and along the road back to Hutton-le-Hole. As we ran through the village, runners who had already finished and other people who were around clapped and shouted encouragement, which was great. I’d absolutely loved the run, but was also really glad to finish!

We all received a really nice t-shirt and medal at the end, and there were refreshments in the village hall. My official time was 6:57. I was a bit disappointed with this at first, but soon realised that everyone had struggled with the heat and been pretty slow! I was pleased to discover I’d come second in the FV50 category and 64th out of the 113 marathon finishers.

I really recommend Hardmoors events. Don’t be put off by the name! They are very friendly and inclusive, well organised and marked, and very popular – you need to be ready to enter as soon as places go on sale. There are always marathon, half marathon and 10K options available. I’m already signed up for the Hardmoors Princess in September, the Roseberry Half in December and the Hardmoors 50 next March (eek). I’ll also be entering the Saltburn Marathon next February when it goes on sale later this month. All good training for my big challenge next summer… watch this space!

Cancer Research UK Race for Life 2018

I love Race for Life. It’s one of the first events I ever did when I started running, and it’s only six weeks now until we welcome it back to York. I was a volunteer marshal at last year’s 5/10K race and am delighted to be asked to be an ambassador for the event this year. Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life, in partnership with Tesco, is an inspiring series of 5k, 10k, Pretty Muddy, half marathon and hiking events that raises millions of pounds every year to help defeat cancer by funding life-saving research.

Race for Life started as one event in 1994 at Battersea Park with just 680 participants, but now sees women and girls of all ages and abilities from all over the UK join together to raise money to help beat over 200 types of cancer affecting men, women and children. In 2018, Cancer Research UK hopes to recruit 400,000 women and raise £38m to help fund life-saving work.

The thing I like best about Race for Life is that it’s a really inclusive and supportive event for women who are new to running. It makes a great first race, and I loved it when I ran the 5K with my teenage stepdaughter a couple of years ago. It was the first time she’d been involved in anything like it, and she really enjoyed training and raising some money for charity.

Of course, one of the best things about Race for Life is that you don’t actually have to run it! Walkers are just as welcome. Lots of people are fundraising in memory of lost loved ones for causes close to their heart, and it can be very moving to see who they’re running for. But it’s also lots of fun too!

I didn’t run last year because I was tapering for Race to the Stones at the time, when I raised over £1,000 for CRUK. So marshalling was a great opportunity to give back a bit. Equipped with my supporter’s props, I think I had as much fun as the participants; although I was a bit hoarse from shouting by the end!

This year I’m going to be running the Race for Life 10K. If you fancy joining us in York on Sunday 16th September there’s still time to enter and do some training for it. Of you want even more fun(!) there’s also a Pretty Muddy event on Saturday 15th. Of course, if you don’t live near York there are other events all over the country. Details can be found here.

 

Dressing up is all part of the fun at Race for Life. Everyone wears something pink, and some people really go for it with the fancy dress! If you’re not quite brave enough for that, Race for Life sponsor Tesco sells a great range of active wear to get you kitted out for the day; check out the range here.

 

Let me know if you’re going to Race for Life in York, or give me a shout if you see me there!

 

Race Review – Burn Valley Half Marathon

When I entered the Burn Valley Half a few weeks ago it seemed like a good idea at the time. I thought a hilly half marathon would be great training for the Hardmoors Rosedale Marathon in August and, ultimately, the Snowdonia Marathon in October. Also, the race starts and finishes in the Yorkshire Dales market town of Masham, famed for its breweries, and we’d been promised beer at the finish. But that was before the heatwave! And then the woman who runs the nearby campsite where we stayed the night before cheerfully told us she believed Burn Valley to be the hardest road half marathon in the UK. So when the day came I was kind of dreading running up and down hills under a scorching sun on baking Tarmac. Oh well, what doesn’t kill you etc…

 

I travelled to the start with my friend Colin, an age group duathlete who didn’t seem unduly bothered at the prospect of the hills or the heat; but then he is currently training for Rat Race’s City to Summit and knocking out brick sessions all the time. Obviously in a different league to yours truly! I’d heard a few days previously that over 300 people had entered, but there were only 227 finishers on the day, so clearly some people had been put off by the weather forecast. I approached it as a training exercise and decided I’d be happy to plod as slowly as necessary to avoid keeling over with heatstroke. Signing on at Masham Town Hall was quick and efficient, with minimal toilet queues.

After a race briefing including the news that an extra water point had been put on (thank God) we set off bang on time. After a circuit of the market place we ran out of town and started climbing up to Swinton Castle. That one wasn’t too bad on fresh legs. After dropping down from the castle the route winds through the Burn Valley, taking in several decent climbs along the way. The biggest of these comes at about halfway, with a gradual climb of about a mile up to a war memorial to the Leeds Pals. I must admit I wasn’t feeling too good at this point. Apart from being hellishly hot and sweaty, my belly felt a bit weird. But fortunately we then turned left and began a gentle descent down Colsterdale with beautiful views.

I’m not sure whether the second half was easier than the first or whether I just felt a bit better! We climbed up and down through the villages of Healey and Fearby. I’m sure all the runners were really glad of the numerous water points laid on by the lovely marshals. I drank a bit and poured some water over my head at pretty much each point. Locals also turned out to support, some of them spraying hoses across the road. It was then back up to Swinton Castle again, where I inflicted a rather sweaty hug on my friend Phil, who was marshalling there. From the castle it was downhill for about the last mile and a half back to Masham. I was pretty glad to see the 13 mile marker, and a shout of “Come on Knavesmire” powered me round the square to the finish, where my husband had cycled out to meet me. At the end we received a banana, some Yorkshire tea, a can of beer and a t-shirt.

My finish time was 2:16:44, reflecting the tough route and the heat. I was 169th out of 227 overall, 53rd out of 92 women and 13th out of 24 in the W50 category. I was a bit narked that there were only large t-shirts left when I finished. I wasn’t fast, but I was a long way from last. It’s not much use for me to wear, but at least it has the course profile handily printed on the back for future reference!

 

Overall I’d really recommend this event. It’s really well organised with a fun, challenging and very scenic course. I’m really surprised more people didn’t sign up for it. Masham also has some great pubs and cafés for cooling post-race beer and/or ice cream. I’d love to do it again next year. Hopefully it will be a bit less hot!

Race Review – Dove House Hospice Wine Dash 5K

I love running. And I love wine. In fact, one of the reasons I started running was to work off some wine calories; although after a while running became more important to me than wine! So when I heard about the first Dove House Hospice Wine Dash it seemed like a bit of a no-brainer. Running, drinking and raising money for charity – I mean, why wouldn’t you? The event took place at Little Wold Vineyard at South Cave near Selby. I must admit, before I heard about this event I didn’t even know there was a vineyard there. It’s part of a farm and has apparently only been producing wine for a short time.

There were two different levels of entry fee – boozers and non-boozers. Fortunately I’d arranged for my OH to cycle out there and chauffeur me home! It was certainly a gorgeous day for the event as I drove over there to meet my friend Karen. Parking was on quite a rough field (good job I’d left the Ferrari at home!) and from there a short walk up a hill to registration. There were three start times: 11 am, 12 noon or 1pm, and we’d plumped for 11. In the start/finish area there was a really nice bar in a marquee, a coffee wagon, some toilets and some hay bales to sit on. There weren’t that many people waiting to start, but I guess the later times may have been more popular. One serious-looking chap lined up with a Camelbak and we wondered whether he was planning to fill it with wine!

The run was a 5K trail route with four wine stops on the way round, themed as different countries: France, Italy, Australia and Spain. Each station had appropriate wines and complementary snacks. At registration we were given a wristband and a card to get stamped as we had our refreshments – water was also available for non-boozers! The wines were all really nice and I believe had been donated by a local wine merchant. The matching snacks were an inspired touch; pizza and garlic bread at Italy, salami and olives at Spain, brioche at France etc.

The undulating trail took us on a scenic route through woods and fields. Most people were jogging very slowly or walking and just enjoying themselves.

Karen and I spent a while at the wine stations(!), chatted to various different folk and had a marvellous time. The weather was glorious, and the views from the top of the hills were fabulous.

We took about an hour and were kind of sad when it was over! At the finish we were given a glass of pink fizz produced at the vineyard, which was gorgeous. A percentage of the purchase price of this goes to the Yorkshire Air Ambulance, so of course we had to buy some to take home! We also received a lovely wooden coaster as a memento and a tube of wine gums.

The Wine Dash was a well-organised, really fun event and I hope it raised lots of money for the hospice. Hopefully if they hold it again more people will attend and raise even more money!

Race Review – Hardmoors White Horse Marathon 2018

I knew the Hardmoors White Horse Marathon was going to be tough. I’d done a couple of their half marathons (you can read my reviews of Saltburn here and Wainstones here), and they were pretty hard – as the name suggests! But that’s kind of the point of these events. For the uninitiated, Hardmoors runs take place in the area covering the North York Moors and the adjoining coastline, and are organised by the awesome couple Jon and Shirley Steele. Each event in the Hardmoors marathon series includes a 10K, a half and a full marathon – although distances are always a bit more than the standard. They’re really popular and sell out fast. Hardmoors also put on some pretty awesome ultra events of up to 200 miles. The Hardmoors mantra is basically Suffering = Fun, which pretty much tells you all you need to know! I thought doing a couple of these marathons at a steady pace would be good training for Snowdonia in October.

The White Horse starts and finishes at the visitor centre at the top of Sutton Bank; from here you can see all the way across to the Yorkshire Dales, a view that vet, author and local legend James Herriot described as ‘the finest in England’. The weather was a bit misty as I drove across from York in the early morning, but forecast to brighten up later. There was plenty of parking when I arrived and no queues at either registration or the loos. There is a mandatory kit list for these events, and your kit is checked before you can pick up your race number. As this was a daytime event in fine weather, the only kit required was a waterproof, a map of the course, a phone and the means to carry some drink. I also took arm warmers, a spare pair of socks, some plasters and a couple of gels just in case. I had a bit of a shoe dilemma beforehand; I thought if I wore my minimal Inov-8 trail shoes my dodgy ankle tendon might kick off, so took a chance with my Hoka road shoes as the weather had been dry for the whole week before the race.

About 120 runners lined up for the marathon. My main aim for the day was just to get round and hopefully not be last! The course is about 28 miles long. Does that make it technically an ultra?! I had no idea how long it would take me, but hoped maybe about six hours. After a race briefing from Jon we set off at 9 am (the half started at 10 and the 10K at 10.30). The mist was clearing a bit and we were nice and high up – but the route starts with a pretty much immediate steep descent down from the Cleveland Way to run around Gormire Lake and then climb (i.e. walk) straight back up again. So your legs have had a good test before you even really get started! Luckily the next few miles are gently undulating and really runnable. After about five miles we turned off the Cleveland Way and set out over the moors. You can check out the route map here.

Hardmoors events are a bit low tech. There’s no chip timing, but old school checkpoints, where your number is noted by a marshal as you pass through. These are all manned by lovely people who are mostly Hardmoors runners themselves, with water, coke, snacks and sweets available. I was helped along by some very good homemade flapjack and a fair few jelly babies!

The first half included a couple of big climbs that really tested most of us. My descending (never my greatest skill!) was slightly compromised by being in road shoes, but overall I think I made the right shoe choice. However, after about ten miles I began to feel my shoes pressing slightly on the inside of the balls of my feet. I’d no idea why, as I’ve worn them for over four hours on the road before with no discomfort. So at one of the checkpoints I stopped and changed socks to see if it would help.

The real beast of the day was a climb called Hawnby Ridge, which seemed to go on forever. The sun had come out by then and it was really warm. As I hauled myself upwards, sweat was literally running down my face and into my eyes. But the view at the top was spectacular. We ran along the ridge for a bit, then descended to a checkpoint that was almost at the halfway point. A few of us missed the path here and ended up wading through heather, but soon got back on track. Fortunately navigation at Hardmoors events is quite easy, with yellow tape at strategic points to show the way and marshals at significant points. Just as well, as my sense of direction isn’t up to much!

My feet were still bothering me, so I stopped again and put some plaster on them, which seemed to do the trick. I got to halfway in about three hours ten minutes, so realised this was going to take a bit longer than anticipated! A couple of miles after this there was a really long drag on the road up out of the village of Hawnby. My husband Steve was cycling out from home to see me a couple of miles from the end of the route, so I rang him and said I’d probably be later than we’d planned to meet! I ploughed on up the hill, jogging as much as I could, but it was hard work in the heat. Luckily after this there were quite a few miles that were easier going, so I managed to run most of that. There was just one more climb after the village of Rievaulx, not far from the finish, then I saw Steve in Cold Kirby, which gave me a nice boost. From there it was just a couple of miles over fields and through some woods to the finish. And boy, was I glad to finish! I did enjoy it though. At the end we all received a really cool technical t-shirt and a nice piece of bling. More snacks and drinks were also on hand.

I finally sneaked in just under six and a half hours. At first I didn’t think I’d done very well, but when the results came out a couple of days later (low tech, remember!) I turned out to be 64th out of 116 finishers overall and second FV50, so I’m happy with that. I can highly recommend the White Horse if you like a testing trail run; although don’t expect to see the actual famous White Horse of Kilburn en route!

The good news is that the White Horse actually has more ascent at 1,220 metres (just under 4,000 feet in old money) than Snowdonia, so I now know that I’ll at least be able to get round that one! It was certainly a brilliant training exercise – although my quads still feel like they’ve been run over by a train three days later! It was well worth it though. I’ve also entered the Hardmoors Rosedale Marathon in August, but luckily that only has about half the ascent of the White Horse – a mere walk in the park in comparison!